A Doctor Who post, because I need some light entertainment

Parallel Worlds 3 Comments »

[Added: see the bottom of the post for the greatest thing ever.]

Yeah, I haven’t written one of these in a while. Anyway… I figured out the main thing that is wrong with the new Doctor Who series (that is, the revival which started in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston playing Doctor No. 9, and continued with David Tennant as No. 10). And that is: it’s not so much about this iconic British character of an alien time traveller who has weird adventures along with human or otherwise companions, as it is about how wonderful it is about being a fan of Doctor Who.

Not being British, I missed out on all the cultic thrill of being a fan of the show. Of course it was one of my favorite shows but it was one of those things that used to only be shown on PBS stations on this side of the pond. Before cable tv PBS pretty much had foreign tv sewn up; they were just about the only source of British shows like Monty Python, Masterpiece Theater, and so on. The schedule was more reliable, as was their funding source. But as cable took hold in the 80s, PBS began to lose its foothold as the only source of foreign tv, and I think their budget shrank, and they stopped showing anything that anyone over the age of 75 was interested in, so my last Doctor for a while was the 5th, Peter Davison. (My first was Tom Baker, number 4. I knew no other Doctors and until recently there could be no other Doctors before those two.) I remember when the tv movie came out, an abortive attempt by Fox to revive the series that went nowhere. I missed it for a reason I now forget. A friend saw it, and said it was “eh.” She hadn’t taped it, or else I’d have seen it. Anyway, I’ve never seen the tv movie with Doctor 8, Paul McGann, though I believe it’s the source of the Evil Overlord rule: “I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.”

Anyway, I heard of the revival, but wasn’t interested, so I missed the Christopher Eccleston run when it first came out. I didn’t get into the new series until it was well into it’s third year over here. Let’s just say I’ve caught up.

I decided to look up the guy who brought it back to life, Russell T. Davies. The first thing I discovered was he was the brain behind Queer As Folk, and that he was one of what I call “professional gays.” A light went off in my head, and a little voice said “so that’s it.”

I’ve been into music fandom before. Scifi cultism is kind of like that. You think you’re special because you listen to this weird music or read these weird stories that other people flinch and frown at, and that music or those stories say something to you that you can’t get from what other people, who you soon learn to call “normals” or “mundanes” or something like that — something that marks you out as special and separate from them — listen to or read. You try to explain your liking to the normals at first, but they just give you that look, and you soon learn to keep it to yourself, so you won’t lose the specialness. The threat that you’ll wake up one day and agree with “them” — the normal, average crowd — that your special, exalted, “other” thing, isn’t really all that special, it’s a variation of something everyday, or worse, it’s an inversion of something good and true, an inversion that is a mockery, and that up against the good and true looks false, stupid, and tinny. The threat of laughter and mockery always looms for the cult fan.

That being said, the strengths of the Doctor Who “brand” didn’t used to depend upon the exclusiveness and clannishness of its fans, but on the common roots of the base story itself, which was the age-old tale of the travelling adventurer. The new series is in a sense inverted. Excellent as much of it is (there is certainly better acting, pacing, and special effects than the old low-budget show), it’s become not so much about the wonderful and mysterious character of the Doctor and all the scrapes he and his random buddies get into as it is about how wonderful it is that we fans are into this Doctor character and show.

The most glaring example of this is the way the writers, led by Davies, decided to get rid of all the Time Lords and their planet Gallifrey in an immense yet never-clearly-explained war. Foom! They’re gone. It wasn’t enough that the Doctor was a rootless wanderer more or less exiled from his home for reasons unknown — let’s up the stakes and make him totally homeless. Which makes him totally dependent upon humans in the minds of the new writers, or am I the only one that has noticed that? Not to mention, having cleared the path, so to speak, of those “high tech” Time Lords, I observe that the human race in this series certainly seems to have out-marveled that old alien race when it comes to tech wonders. Consider: the humans live until the very end of the universe (Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords), can instantly terraform a planet (The Doctor’s Daughter), are able to transform an entire planet into a giant library just for one dying girl (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead), can live on as a flap of skin with a brain in a tank (Rose and New Earth), and so on. How can the Time Lords compete? Heck, humans even get time travel. (The character of Captain Jack used to be a Time Agent; and he travels in time without being protected by a Tardis — hardcore!)

Humans are elevated into the main characters in the new series, which throws the whole thing off just a tad. Just enough to irritate anal-retentive people with time on their hands (heh) like me. Maybe that’s why the best episode of the whole three years was “Midnight,” which had the Doctor all by himself without his companion and her superpowers of friendship to protect him. Of course, that episode ended with him having to be rescued from his predicament by a human anyway. Humans — that is fans — rule! Note: an episode of Queer As Folk reportedly had one of the main characters after an abortive date with another guy retreating to the safety of his hidden stash of Doctor Who episodes. See? Hidden away like a closeted gay’s real life! Did Russell T. Davies forget to mention that he’s gay? And a Doctor Who fan? Write it down, there will be a quiz.

I’ll skip over all the tedious lessons on “tolerance” that the new series writers’ seem to feel today’s audience needs at least one of in every episode. I also don’t want to give the impression that I don’t enjoy the show. I wouldn’t write about it like this if I didn’t. I wouldn’t watch it. But I hope that next year, with a new executive producer in charge, that we start to ease up on the fannishness and get back into the actual story. They have this fascinating character of an alien time traveller and he’s been made into just another love object for girls and boys to sigh over. At the end of the day, that’s not really all that interesting. (Nor is the — God spare us — underlying theme of “all war is bad” that I think is behind the whole Time War I-destroyed-Gallifrey-in-order-to-save-it thing. If I were in charge I’d pull some Whoniverse trick out of my ass forthwith and bring back Gallifrey and at least some of the Time Lords. I don’t have the trouble with the idea of authority that apparently certain writers at the BBC do…)

I’ll end with a short review of the last Doctor Who episode I’ve watched. “The Infinite Quest” is an animated episode featuring Martha and the Doctor. I won’t say it’s better than any of the regular live-action episodes, but… I enjoyed it a whole lot more than even some of my favorite of the other episodes. The plot is a foofaraw of nonsense that reminded me of the fun days of the old series, something about tracking down a many-parted device that can do something universe-shattering in order to keep it from the dastardly villain who wants it. Martha’s family is not mentioned. (Each regular companion except for Jack has a family in the new series, and despite a cute moment or two it’s unbelievably tedious. Oh, the many moments of plot wasted while Rose wittered on about her dead dad or way-too-living mum, or Martha lied to her mother, or Donna belatedly realized that “that’s my family down there!” on Earth. The old series had it right — make sure the companions are orphans or if they do have family — in the case of Turlough — or start moaning about wanting settled family life — like Susan — get those companions off the series as soon as possible. I’m so sick of families mucking up my entertainment.) Anyway, the episode is a throwback to the old fun episodes where it was just the Doctor and his mate trying to stop something bad or find something and along the way they visit some alien planets that aren’t frikkin’ 21st century Earth. I quite liked it. The only thing I didn’t like was the animation — it was okay for backgrounds, alien creatures, and robotic characters, but human and humanoids like the Doctor were primitively drawn, without even the life that Hanna Barbera characters had. But the regular actors (along with Anthony Head voicing the main villain) read out the lines, so I really didn’t have to actually watch the thing, I could pretend I was listening on the radio. Now I am wondering if the radio plays are more like this instead of being like the television show. I’ll have to look them up.

Update: this is the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life. Next year I’m making one. Ooh, but I’ll use a silver Christmas tree. Or even a gold one, if I can find one…

Second update: I’m so not used to the cradle-to-grave-care attitude of the British that this only occurred to me now — how odd is is that this show is considered some sort of cult classic in the land of its origin? I mean: it’s a government sponsored show (it’s always been on the BBC) and considered a British cultural institution. Not only that, it’s a “family” show (i.e., one people of all ages can watch, the ideal being Mum, Dad, and the kids all huddled together on the couch). But even in the UK its fans seem to think of themselves as members of some sort of special group quite out of the mainstream of British society. That’s just fucked up.

The problem with pretentious windbags

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…is the way they always gild the lily. They could be content with a simple statement, but no, they have to add something unnecessary and extra that makes you want to punch them in the face. Take Sartre, for example, a dead French guy whose philosophy the hipster set likes to claim they base their lives on. (They don’t, though — at least in this country the actual world view of those who can afford to waste their time pretending they read rambling, incomprehensible nonsense by Derrida and Foucault is based firmly in their staid, butter-on-white-bread Protestant-work-ethic bourgeois upbringing.) But as I was saying, take Sartre, as quoted in this article:

“Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.”

Now, see what he did there? That last section, so not needed: “…of what he could have.” Bitch, you already said “the sum of what he does not yet have,” you don’t need to say it again in a slightly different way! Don’t you just want to go back in time, walk up to him where he is sitting at his little café table with his little glass of wine and his cigar or whatever and deck him?

Hey, here’s a new idea for an episode of Doctor Who:

SCENE: It is 1931. a Frenchman sits at a café table on the Champs Elysée. It is Jean-Paul Sartre. He is drinking cognac and reading a French magazine.

(Wheeze wheeze wheeze wheeze VWORP VWORP VWORP VWORP.)

A blue box with the words “POLICE PHONE BOX on it materializes in front of Sartre, who is nonplussed. The box is the Tardis. The door of the Tardis opens and a tall, thin man in a long brown coat steps out. It is the Doctor. He is carrying a cricket bat. He approaches Sartre and looks down at him.

DOCTOR: M. Sartre?

SARTRE: Mais oui!

DOCTOR: Jean-Paul Sartre?

SARTRE: (warily) Yes, monsieur, that is my name.

DOCTOR: The Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, the existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic, one of the leading Figures in 20th Century French philosophy? (Ed: the Doctor reads Wikipedia.)

SARTRE: (Amazed) I am?

(The Doctor then raises the cricket bat and brings it down on Sartre’s head. Sartre falls out of his chair and sprawls inert on the pavement.)

DOCTOR: Not any more.

(The door to the Tardis opens. A young girl with long brown hair, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with the initials CUNY across the front of it looks out.)

GIRL: Is it done?

DOCTOR: (Looking down at Sartre.) Yup. When he wakes up in the hospital he’ll have forgotten everything he learned at the Sorbonne. He’ll decide to go into chicken farming in Provence. Being and Nothingness will never be written.

GIRL: Thank you, Doctor!

DOCTOR: Now, who’s next on the list… (Still speaking, he and the girl go back into the Tardis and close the door. A few seconds later the Tardis dematerializes.)


(Slate article via Kathy Shaidle.)

Everything that rises must converge

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She’s got it all except for being a crippled lesbian, and this being the acting universe we’re talking about, news that the latter requirement is fulfilled might soon surface (and there’s also time to put to literal use that old acting saw “break a leg”): a proposal for a British actress of Nigerian and Jewish descent who was in a movie about genocide for the part of Number 11 in the Doctor Who series. This is a riff off a recent proposal of a band of female scientists for a female Doctor, who with clunking earnestness declare that

…making a high profile sci-fi character with a following like Doctor Who female would help to raise the profile of women in science and bring the issue of the important contribution women can and should make to science in the public domain.

Never mind that for most Who fangirls one of the current main attractions of the show is the geeky-hot male star, with the attached fantasy of being his companion/girlfriend. The bad facts are that most girls don’t want to be in charge, they want to be with the guy in charge. Also, math is hard. And this is after decades of girls-can-do-it-too propaganda. They just ain’t listening, and that can’t be blamed on the culture anymore. (Besides, the show has already had plenty of female scientists — companions Jo, Liz, Romana — who was also a Time Lady — just to name a few. Don’t mess with fangirls. We know it all.)

The men don’t know but the little girls understand

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Keep in mind that most of these people are also fans of Obama. What does that tell you? Well, it tells me that we are fucking doomed, but you knew that already. (And by the way, this occurred to me first. So there.)

The Dim Fantastic

Parallel Worlds, Writing 9 Comments »

Question: when did “literature” become defined as “anything you read that makes you miserable, guilty and hopeless about the universe” whereas any story that not only entertains you but makes you feel happier when you come to the end has been relegated to the status of inferior pulp dreck for rubes and morons? Once science fiction was all of the latter, but then somehow the genre attracted the attention of the Littritchur Brigade, and it’s been downhill ever since. Personally I think someone at a university somewhere had their stacks of “Princess Theta and the Moonbeasts” paperbacks discovered and had to come up with an excuse quick lest they become the laughing stock at their next faculty party. Tell me the truth, is any of that “thought-provoking” “speculative” science fiction about how White Anglo Saxon Males (“metaphorically” disguised as humans) oppress women ‘n’ minorities ‘n’ other-sexuals (“metaphorically” disguised as aliens) really fun to read? Is it uplifting? Does it make you feel hopeful — which is the base mental state necessary to enable human beings to actually work towards improving the conditions of our life on earth?

No it does not. Barring a few exceptions, most of the “literary” science fiction that has been published is depressing shit that I wouldn’t let my kids near if I had any. I’d let them glom up piles of “racist, sexist” pulp about evil Martians and Space Princesses in peril, because they’d know it was fantasy, but they’d learn valuable lessons on fighting evil and protecting good, but let them absorb the lesson that the human race is destined to misery and oppression forever and that there is no good or evil, just blobs of arbitrarily arranged molecules, as so much “important” science fiction promotes? That would be child abuse.

And that, folks, is why I don’t like the new Battlestar Galactica, and much prefer the old series despite it’s late 70s-style cheesiness. Also, coming up, my list of sucky science fiction books and why you should never let college professors write the stuff.

People of the Earth, please attend carefully…

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I’m the King of Town!

The election of our new prez reminds me of this scene:

DOCTOR: […]So how has he managed all this?  The Master was always sort of…hypnotic but this is on a massive scale.

MARTHA: I was gonna vote for him.

DOCTOR: Really?

MARTHA: Well, it was before I even met you.  And I liked him.

JACK: Me too.

DOCTOR: Why do you say that?  What was his policy?  What did he stand for?

MARTHA: (dreamy) I dunno.  He always sounded…good. (fingers start tapping) Like you could trust him.  Just nice.  He spoke about…I can’t really remember, but it was good.  Just the sound of his voice.

DOCTOR: What’s that?

MARTHA: (startled) What?

DOCTOR: That!  That tapping, that rhythm!  What are you doing?

MARTHA: I dunno.  It’s nothing.  It’s j—  I dunno!

(Via.) I’d link to a clip on Youtube if I could find one, but I don’t have the patience to go through all of them, and most of them seem to have been made into music videos anyway.

Well, I at least managed to resist the hypnotic lure of a pretty appearance and smooth voice, but as usual I’m in the minority. Most people in this country pick candidates the way they pick new boyfriends, and with about as much success. I expect the chorus of “He… he wasn’t like that when I first met him!” to start in, oh, say about a couple of weeks. I plan to stock up on popcorn.

Oh, and for God’s sake, my fellow righties, quit whining. I can’t even mouse over the links on my blogroll, the shrieking noise that comes out of my computer speakers is deafening. Here’s a breath of sense from Steven Den Beste. Remember, it’s leftists who whine that the world will not change to their whims, not us. (Via Slublog at Ace of Spades.) Here’s another person who feels pretty good, Steve H. He seems to think God is punishing us with Obama. I don’t know… God may just be doing some pre-punishing fucking with our heads. If you were God, wouldn’t you mess with your creation every now and then?

(Edited to add picture, because I felt like it. Later: edited to conserve the space-time continuum, which we all know now is a finite pie-shaped object just like wealth and everything else.)

Dude, WTF

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(Found here. In fact, the whole sequence is hilarious. It is way too easy to caption Doctor Who stills to The Big Lebowski. There must be a reason for this but I’m afraid to think about it too much — I might figure it out.)

Another: “nobody fucks with the Jesus.” Haahahahaha.


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Hey, you know what? I think Doctor Who needs more multiculturism. Not to mention the addition of dancing and singing. And, uh, shower scenes. We haven’t had one since New Earth

And now for something completely serious

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I think I know the real reason David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who. As per his current contract with the BBC, he’s not allowed to attend scifi conventions while he is playing the role. But after he’s free of this obligation, not to mention scripts that make sure any female who gets so much as a hug from the Doctor might as well be the Non-Final Girl in a slasher flick, look what awaits.

Yep. Not wanting to “overstay his welcome” and wanting to “bow out when it’s still fun” my ass.

(Via Ace of Spades.)


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After five special episodes through the next year, David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who. Too bad, I thought he was a pretty good Doctor. Also hawt. But I can’t blame him for not wanting to be typecast, like Tom Baker was. Also, I’m relieved he won’t be subject anymore to the “the Doctor-is-the-Messiah” complex that seems to have overtaken the series. If I had been him I would have quit after the Tinkerbell Jesus treatment he got at the end of the 2007 run, but that’s one of the many reasons I’m not in showbiz. I can’t imagine who they’re going to replace him with, but they’re making noises about picking a black person or a woman, because being PC is more important than making sense. And maybe they can give him/her/it some sort of Time Lord disability, so crippled kids can identify with their hero — because we all know that no one can identify with any fictional character that is at all unlike them. That’s why science fiction and fantasy are such unpopular genres.

The show’s head guy promises a “spectacular” ending; I’d rather just have a well-written episode. But Russell T. has shown that when it comes to a choice between flashy special effect and coherent writing, he thinks coherency is for squares. (Watch the end of “Last of the Time Lords” if you don’t believe me.)

Anyway, what I wanna know is, what’s Davy gonna do next? And will he be naked? You didn’t see me type that.

Update: well, at least the fans are taking it well. Yep. (Backs away slowly.)